From a mosque after prayers, the protagonist explains the cost of being cut-off from modern communications in the insurgency-riddled ‘deep south’ of Thailand.
He has to make long drives through dangerous roads to meet people in person or to use a landline to check-in on his wife and son at home.
His disconnection is self-imposed but necessary: he refuses to register his biodata to get a SIM card as ordered by the Thai state.
The government says it is a necessary security measure covering the Malay Muslim-majority southernmost provinces. It says this is where militants fighting a grinding insurgency against Bangkok use burner phones to detonate their roadside bombs.
Muslim locals say it is just the latest tool of Thai security services to creep into their lives: harvesting biodata in a new layer of mass surveillance in a region where appearing on state registers often result to miscarriages of justice.
‘Pattani Calling’ is a story of a community being forced by state digital policies into exile from modern communication. It is also a tale of defiance and resourcefulness by people staying connected when the state refuses to give them SIM cards.